Thursday, April 17, 2008

A "Lost" Gold Mine

I'm back to work today and so will just post this short anecdote.

The above major dirt road, which heads east from just north of Schurz, NV (Schurz is a tiny place on Highway 95 between Fallon and Hawthorne) will take you out to what may be an undiscovered gold deposit, that is, if you know the right side roads to take.

I "discovered" this place in the mid/late 1980's, an area of nicely altered Tertiary volcanic rocks, altered in a way that reminded me a lot of the major, high-sulfidation (back then called "quartz-alunite") gold mining camp of Goldfield, NV. There had been a few drill holes in part of the area, and some white claims posts were lying around here and there. The entire area, however, had not been drilled, including some hard to find quartz-alunite-altered rocks hidden at the bottom of some minor dry washes. I took a bunch of samples, made a sketch map of the area, and drove to Fallon - the county seat - and checked the claim records for the area.

There were no active claims, and despite the claim posts scattered here and there, it didn't look like any claims had been filed recently. Sometimes prospectors, geologists, and mining exploration companies will put up discovery posts, and then not file the claims if the assays don't look too good, because in Nevada, one has 90 days (I think, or at least 30) to put up all claim corner posts and file the claims with the county and BLM.

I called in to the office, and claim stakers were shortly on the way to the area, because whether or not any samples I took came back good or not, the area wasn't very far from the Paradise Peak and Rawhide, two major gold mines located nearby, and I thought the alteration itself looked good enough to warrant staking and then mapping and sampling at the very least. After acquiring the property by staking, the mapping and sampling we would do would determine whether or not we would want to drill the property, and if so, where.

Well, while the claim stakers were enroute, our landman determined, after a lot of digging around, that despite info from the county courthouse and state land map, the area had been recently "taken" by the Navy, without going through all appropriate channels - like legislation - which is why there were claim posts but no county filing of the claims. Someone else had found the area, staked it, and then found out the area was technically unavailable for mineral entry (claim staking). We called off our claim stakers (staking is often done by separate, surveying-type outfits), and I went back out to see what else I could find.

So there is a possible gold mine out there, between Schurz and Fallon, where the land has been withdrawn for Naval flying and exercises.


Mathias said...

This reminds me of something one of my mineral deposits professor always liked to repeat to us: If you ever find something interesting - don't think, claim it! It could be the lottery win!

Unfortunately I never saw or found anything so far...

Silver Fox said...

Always keep your claim posts handy - you never know when you'll get involved in a claim-staking war (only happened to me twice, and only got illegally overstaked once).

C W Magee said...

In australia, everything is done by computer and GPS- although unheld land is stil referred to as "unstaked". I can't imagine what a nightmare it would be to actually have to put physical posts in the corners of our claims- some of them are not exactly accessible (in fact, we couldn't get to some of our more remote areas last year due to late season flooding.

The nice thing about this is you can see who has what here:
(follow instructions on page- java required)

Silver Fox said...

Chuck, the link just gives "currently no geosets assigned to you, please contact TIS Admin" and help doesn't seem to help much.

Here, you have to go to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and sometimes they have their maps updated, and sometimes not (actually, they have a webpage when it hasn't been hacked; it may be working fine, now). Going to the county courthouse can sometimes be the best way to see updated, current plat maps (of each township) - they are updated the old-fashioned way, by hand - and there are big thick books to look through to find out which claims are current, since claims have to be paid for each year. If your area of interest is in the corner of two or three counties, then you might have to go to, Tonopah, Hawthorne, and Goldfield, for example.

In 1980-whatever, nothing like that was posted on the "web" - really there wasn't one - and even today, there is nothing to prevent your local military from taking over something, and then that "withdrawn" land wouldn't get onto all the maps until the takeover is "legalized." Possibly they were slapped on the wrist back then for doing it prior to any legislation - who knows?

As for accessibility - in the winter, people just drop posts out of helicopters into the snow - or you hire these really rugged claim staking outfits with giant machetes for places like Alaska. Also, claim corners can have "witness posts" off of the corner, but the discovery post can't. So I don't know what they do in places with lakes or rivers - claim staking laws differ from state to state (what kind of posts to use, where to put the posts, like side centers or end centers in some states besides corners and discovery posts).

It's all kind of part of the game, here, but sure could be streamlined! Many times, any improvements in the Mining Law of 1872 come with a bunch of things that companies, including foreign ones, don't like - like royalties for ore in the ground. So when legislation comes up, most companies end up lobbying against it. Plus, what would the BLMers (prounounced Blem-ers) do for a job if they couldn't spend an hour trying to find or not find maps for you? I think it's a national job program.

Silver Fox said...

Also, hey - there were no computers besides mainframes to handle things, no GPS's - in the early 80's as far as I know. When did the first "portable" computer come out - the Compaq? Not until 1982 or later. How about the first personal/portable GPS? We used wormy 4x4 posts back then - heavy suckers.

If you are out in the middle of nowhere, how fast can you tell if something has been "staked?" Do you have cell or satellite service available everywhere to get on the internet in the field? My Verizon card doesn't work everywhere in Nevada! Satellite phones and GPS's work everywhere except in canyons, but I don't know how they connect to the internet.

C W Magee said...

How fast-
You look it up before you go- the application process takes months (years on aboriginal land), so nothing happens overnight.

Bad link-
then click "unregistered user"
Then click "apply"
Java is required, though.

I realize that there was no IT in the 80's, but I thought that you were talking about current regulations.

And as far as bureaucracies go, the NTGS is the awesomest government organization I've ever encountered.

Silver Fox said...

It's cool about using the GPS to stake claims, and I did get to the map page with land status. The BLM has a similar webpage-search system for claims: here, which I've really never used, so I'm not familiar with that system. If I was doing recon in an area, I'd check the land status first - but if it changed while I was in the field, I'd have to rely on looking for (new) posts on the ground.

I was kind of using a mixed timeline - talking about what I did in the 80's - but you still do have to put posts out. If I want to stake a claim right this minute - 1st, all I really have to do is put a discovery post up with a paper on the post - and if I'm wrong about the land being open, I can take it down later. The claim is valid instantly (unless I screwed up and staked withdrawn or already claimed land). Then - I'd better hope the claim owner isn't an oldtimer with a shotgun! I've only been run off once!